5 STEPS TO TURN YOUR GARDEN INTO A VIBRANT OUTDOOR SPACE TO ENJOY
When you think about your garden, what is the first emotion it provokes? If it’s shame and discontent, don’t worry, we’re here to help to set your garden and yourself up for success. If you are happy with your outdoor space, continue reading, you might still get a few tips.
1. GARDENS ARE THE OUTDOOR LIVING ROOMS TO OUR HOMES
A garden is an extension of your living space, it is part of your home, and you should value it in the same way you value your lounge or living area. Spend time in it and make it as inviting and comfortable as possible for yourself and all your visitors (human and other).
As landscape designers, we are constantly met with budget constraints and when it comes to allocating funds to a garden, a well-designed landscape often loses out to household luxuries. People, in general, would rather spend R 50,000 on a high definition 3D television than a garden that offers high definition 3D experiences all-year-round.
It really is as simple as this: if you want an enjoyable outdoor space, you have to prioritise it. Rather than browsing LG’s new catalogue, pick up a gardening publication and swoon over this season’s flowering perennials.
2. BE REALISTIC – YOUR MASTERPIECE NEEDS CARE AND ATTENTION
You need to want a garden and realise that what you are taking on is a responsibility. A garden is a living organism; you can’t put it in place, vacuum it when it gets dusty and assume it will be fine.
A garden is home to more than just the pretty flowers and herbs and vegetables you plant. All of the magic happens under the ground.
Plants are dependent on microbial activity around their root systems and these little guys need a lot of TLC. And by TLC I mean poop; more specifically, decomposed organic waste. Just like you and I, plants and their micro buddies need to eat. Your garden needs essential vitamins and nutrients in the same way that humans do. There is a common misconception plants simply need to be watered and they will be fine. A diet of water and the little bits of nutrients here and there might be fine if you happened to be a fashion model in the ’90s, but poor nutrition can kill your garden. It needs to be fed like an old lady feeds her cats. A regular feeding schedule with a general slow-release fertiliser can do wonders for your garden.
3. ALWAYS MULCH!
Mulch as much as possible. A bare bed leads to the excess decomposing matter being blown away, which dries out a garden bed. The general rule of thumb is to feed your garden every three months and mulch as needed. Your fertiliser composition will depend on your garden needs, and same with your mulching. Ask for advice at your local garden centre. Certain mulches make soil more acidic and others more alkaline.
4. YOUR GARDEN NEEDS TO BE HYDRATED
Yes. But here is the trick: make sure you water wisely. Certain plants love sitting in wet spots; others despise it. Certain species thrive on little water during wet seasons and others want more during summer. Shade lovers hate the sun and full sun species can’t handle the shade.
It is important to know what you want. Do you want a full-sun, colourful garden that needs little water? Great, ensure you group your plants accordingly. All nurseries tend to label their plants in a manner that indicates their light and water requirements. You should put all the sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants in the same areas and shade-loving plants that tolerate moist conditions in the cooler wetter spots.
5. EXPECT VISITORS
There will be insects, birds and possibly small rodents that frequent your garden. Before you lay down the traps and spray the garden with pesticides, investigate to see if these visitors are actually causing any harm. Most of the time, all this activity indicates a very healthy natural space; you’ve managed to create a space where natural processes can occur. The birds either feed on fruit and insects, as do the rodents. The insects eat each other and they might chew on a leaf or two here and there, but it is part of the cycle. Expect to come across spiders in the trees and worms in the soil, and if you are squeamish, put on a pair of gardening gloves, but don’t kill the poor guys. No-one likes an unruly landlord.
I would only recommend organic pesticides if there is a serious problem. With that in mind, when doing your research, make sure you see which pests attack which plants species. Citrus trees in Cape Town are often the victims of multiple pests: scale, whitefly, aphids, just about anything that you can imagine will attack them. These trees require more of a care regiment than most, but if you want life to give you lemons, you need to work for them.
Following these principles will guide you to have success in your garden and allow you to enjoy your outdoor space to the best of its ability. It will also give you the opportunity to learn about the processes in your garden and help you to get to know what the different seasons do to your garden and how you can set it up for success.
“As is imitation to flattery, so is a landscape designer to nature. Being an avid user of the Mediterranean palette, whether it be plants, colours or textures, my mythical paintbrush is dipped in regions and I paint in themes.”
MARK MAC HATTIE
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